Burda skinny jeans 115-03-2014

People talk a lot about finding TNT (tried and tested) patterns; ones that fit beautifully and get made again and again. I don’t have any TNTs and most of the time I don’t want any. But every so often I think it would be nice to have a standard skinny jeans pattern that I could cut out and make without too much thought about fitting.

A few years ago Burda did a pattern for what they call ‘five pocket trousers’ which is exactly the sort of thing I’m after. It’s available here as a PDF, or style 115 from March 2014 if you have the magazines.

For my first attempt I used left over fake leather from a previous project. It’s a heavy scuba jersey with a plastic coating so fairly forgiving fit wise, but tricky to sew. I left off the back pockets, the ticket pocket, and the belt loops. The only thing I top stitched was the fly front. I didn’t dare try to make a buttonhole but used a trouser hook to close the waist. Here’s the result:

Burda 115-03-2014

I think they’re pretty good for a first try. The shiny fabric shows every single wrinkle so the photos are not flattering the fit.

I made my usual Burda adjustments (trace a size smaller for the waist and add 5cm to the leg length) and also changed the waistband from straight to curved to try to avoid gapping. That wasn’t enough to accommodate the big difference between my waist and hips, and next time I might take the waist in a bit more. I’d also prefer a wider waistband.

Burda 115-03-2014 jeans

I had to use a walking foot to top stitch the fly front, and also when stitching in the ditch to secure the waistband. The hems were hand sewn because I wanted a good finish and even with the walking foot the fabric dragged a little; you can’t pin this stuff without leaving permanent marks and you certainly can’t unpick so I didn’t want to risk machining the hems. I still haven’t got my hands on a Teflon foot but I hear they are a good solution.

Installing the zip without pins was also tricky; wonder tape helped a lot there.

Burda 115-03-2014 jeans

If I was making these in a stretch woven as intended I think I’d try making a full calf adjustment as they are noticeably tighter there.

The pockets have come out surprisingly well. The pocket lining is a scrap of heavy polyester stretch satin I had left over from another project. Normally I’d use cotton poplin for lining jeans pockets but I thought the stretch factor of the satin would be more compatible with the scuba.

Burda 115-03-2014

So overall a success. Haven’t quite dared wear them to work yet but they are good for weekends. I’m going to make the pattern in stretch denim next.

And I’ve still got some of the scuba left. What possessed me to buy four metres I don’t know. I don’t think it has enough body for a jacket, I don’t wear skirts much, and how many pairs of fake leather trousers does one person need? I’m currently debating whether to have a go at copying those Gareth Pugh styles with appliqued leather patches that look a bit like armour, but I suspect the appliqué would be immensely time consuming to sew, and one thing I certainly don’t have is a lot of sewing time. Maybe in a year or two…

Style Arc Genevieve coming up next!

Wet look leggings: Burda 130-01-2011

Ages ago I had a pair of wet-look leggings from Topshop that I wore under skirts and dresses to add a bit of interest. They were always slightly too small for me, and the seams strained alarmingly from day one. Pregnancy finished them off completely. Just before my baby arrived I bought a length of wet look scuba knit from Tia Knight so I could replace them. It’s been over a year now and I have finally got around to sewing the fabric up! The exact same product code is no longer available, surprise surprise, but this one looks very similar and I think the product photo is the same as the one in my order confirmation.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The pattern is Burda 130-01-2011, a very basic leggings pattern. There is just one pattern piece on this view; not even a separate waistband. The pattern has a second view which has an overskirt added to the design. Not something I intend to use any time soon but it makes it a little more versatile.

It’s designed for stretchy knits and my scuba is fairly stable so I measured the flat pattern carefully and sized up quite a bit; I’d normally make a 40 on hips and legs and what I ended up with was more like a 44. One adjustment I didn’t need to make was length. I am tall and yet the standard length on this is more than enough for me. Perhaps they are meant to be worn scrunched up? Worth checking if you make these yourself. I didn’t hem mine but even allowing for that they are too long.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fabric was a challenge to sew. My sewing machine could not feed it at all if the coated side was in contact with either the foot or the feed dogs. I ended up sewing the waist casing on my overlocker because I couldn’t get it through the regular machine. I did it the way you’d sew a hem on an overlocker: folding the fabric as you do to use a blind hem stitch on a regular machine and using a flatlock stitch to catch the raw hem edge to the fold. It’s not at all beautiful and the elastic tends to twist, but it was better than nothing. Another time I’d make a completely separate waistband piece and overlock it on. And I’ve since picked up some tops for sewing pleather type fabrics from Alex; that’s a good thing as I have quite a bit of the scuba left over. For what it’s worth I used size 90 needles on the overlocker with this, and on the regular machine a size 100 ball point, which worked fine as long as I only sewed the fabric with the wrong side out.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fit is OK – which is to say not brilliant but considerably better than my Topshop leggings. The front crotch depth is too long and the waist could do with being a bit smaller. There’s a reason I’m wearing a long top in the photos. But I would never wear these in real life without something over the top that covers my bum so I don’t think it’s really cheating.

These aren’t the greatest thing I’ve ever made but they fill a wardrobe hole and didn’t take long. If anyone’s wondering what happened to my Style Arc jacket I did finish it but it took forever to get photos…watch this space.

Brainteaser: Vogue 1400

Making this dress was a learning experience. It looked straightforward on the pattern envelope: a cotton shirt dress with very little shaping, rated Easy. But look a little more closely. The chest pockets are not simple patch pockets; they have tiny little gussets. There’s a slightly fiddly shoulder cut-out feature, which you probably can’t see on the first couple of pictures. And to get the prescribed clean internal finish on the neckline facing involves turning under and stitching smoothly around some extremely curved edges. Getting a good outcome on this one doesn’t call for a lot of fitting expertise, but it requires great precision at all stages of cutting and sewing. I found it a moderately challenging project; more of an “Average” than an “Easy”.

Vogue 1400

Here’s the original envelope picture. I kind of wish I’d made mine in white too, although I know that in reality I wouldn’t wear it much if I had. A lot of the detail is lost in a darker fabric, particularly that beautifully shaped neckline facing. I top-stitched mine on the machine (the original is hand top-stitched with a running stitch) and it blends in a bit too much. I also considerably shortened the front and back slits to make my version bra-friendly. Sizing is consistent with other Vogue patterns: as usual I made one size down from the one the size chart suggested and added 5cm length.

Vogue 1400 envelope photo

The shoulders are surprising. The small cutout gives a very square shouldered effect, especially from the back, despite the actual shoulder seam being dropped. If I made this again I think I might pinch out a bit on the back shoulder to soften the line. On the other hand, it’s certainly a dramatic effect. And it’s a version of the current cold shoulder trend that I actually like, which is unusual.

Vogue 1400

Choosing interfacing for this was tricky. The shell fabric is a black cotton poplin shirting from Croft Mill. I interfaced with Vilene G700, a lightweight woven fusible, and I think even that is a touch too heavy. But on the other hand you need some structure around the cutouts and the splits. Self fabric interfacing might work well.

Getting a clean edge on the facing is a nightmare. I block fused it, which was probably my first mistake. The pattern has you turn and press a tiny little hem, trim it down even further, and then edgestitch it. I stitched a guideline along the foldline first which was a great help but it was still tricky to do on the interfaced fabric and I burnt my fingers a few times. I am wondering if the facing would be better made of two layers of shell fabric stitched together and then turned out. Or perhaps even the technique where you sew a layer of fusible interfacing to the facing with the non-glued side of the fusible to the right side of the fabric, turn out, and then fuse the two layers together.

The instructions for facing the cutout edge along the top of the sleeve were similarly fiddly, although there I’m not sure I can come up with any improvement other than binding the whole armscye seam, which is also a faff and means making bias binding from the shell fabric. However there was an awful lot of ‘sew a 1.5cm seam and now trim this edge down’ in the directions where it would have been simpler to just cut pieces out the right size to start with and instruct the maker to use a smaller seam allowance.

Vogue 1400

I sound pretty grumpy here but in fact this pattern was a good workout for the brain and I have worn the end result. It needs a wide contrasting belt to look good, which is faff, but I like all the pockets! I’m kind of tempted to try making it again just to try out my construction thoughts…if only I had the time.

Burda 104c-02-2017

Nothing but repeats: Burda 104c-02-2017 culottes again

I should know this by now, but it's amazing the difference fabric choice makes to a pattern. Earlier this year I made Burda's 104c-02-2017 culottes pattern in a drapey viscose crepe fabric. Not at all the recommended fabric for the pattern, but the end result was great and I've worn them a lot. So I made them again, this time in a stretch cotton sateen from Fabric Godmother. This fabric is much more the sort of thing the pattern designer intended. The pattern specifies "lightweight trouser fabric with some body". The originals were a little large so I took the waist in slightly as well, and here's the end result; you wouldn't think it was the same pattern.

Burda 104c-02-2017

And here is the viscose crepe pair for comparison. I seem to have worn the same top for both sets of photos: not intentional.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should say that the sateen pair were worn and washed several times before we got around to taking pictures, and were put on straight from the drying rack without ironing, whereas the viscose pair were photographed in their 'just finished' state.

The viscose pair sit much lower on me and have a nice swish, but feel a bit big. The crepe tends to grow with wear which doesn't help, although a wash shrinks them back to the original size.

Burda 104c/02/2017

The sateen pair feel much more structured and look slightly shorter because they sit higher. The shinier fabric means they tend to show marks and creases more easily than the crepe ones.

The pattern has fake back pockets which I skipped on the new pair. They were a pain in the neck to sew on the originals and I wasn't happy with the positioning. The trousers look OK without them I think. The sizing on the new ones is better but still not quite right. They fit at the waist now but seem slightly too small on the bum. I didn't change the pattern there so that's just the effect of different fabric.

Burda 104c-02-2017

This pattern has lots of belt loops, which means there is a very long thin tube to turn inside out. Not my favourite sewing activity and not easy in a fabric with body. I tried a new-to-me technique involving a chopstick and a straw. I was cynical about it before I started but it worked! You sew up one end of the fabric tube, poke the straw into the tube, and then push the closed end through the centre of the tube using the chopstick. I can't find the instructions I used now but this article covers the technique: https://angelleadesigns.com/tutorials/how-to-turn-a-narrow-tube-of-fabric/ . I suspect it relies on the straw being an appropriate diameter for the size of tube. My straw was narrow and I think it would have failed on thicker fabric.

Burda 104c-02-2017

The belt came out the right length this time. On the previous pair it was extremely long which looks good in pictures but is a pain in the neck to wear. I must have cut it on the fold by mistake or something like that. In fact the whole waist area is better in the sateen. Again it's the effect of using crisper fabric. There is no waistband, just a facing, and it needs some body and a lot of tacking in order to make it stay put. I stitched my facing down in the ditch of the side and centre back seams on both pairs but I should have done it at the pleats and darts too.

Burda 104c-02-2017

I'm very happy with both of these. Both are in high rotation at the moment.

Short and simple: Rick Owens inspired knit top

Rick Owens style top front

If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while you’ll have heard of frosting sewing versus cake sewing. Or for those of us in the U.K., icing versus cake. Icing is the pretty, impractical stuff we love to sew but rarely wear, and cake is practical basics. This is a cake project: a simple black long-sleeved t-shirt in wool jersey. I know I will wear this until it goes into holes.

I’ve made a couple of these before using a pattern I mashed together from an old McCalls dress pattern (no, I don’t know why this seemed like a good starting point either) and while I loved them and wore them to destruction they nevertheless had a few fitting niggles. So this time I started off with the close fitting stretch t-shirt block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and adapted from there. I was going for a combination of these two Rick Owens tops: the shaped hem of the tank with the ultra long sleeves of the t-shirt.

collage

I copied the raw hems and the feature centre back seam of the originals. My centre back seam is just overlocked wrong sides together with the four thread overlocker stitch and pressed to one side. I find it surprisingly difficult to sew that seam correctly because my brain’s so used to doing it the other way. I have to keep chanting ‘wrong sides together, wrong sides together’ to remind myself.

Rick Owens style top back

I like it a lot. It’s not totally perfect: I’m wearing it over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt in these pictures which tends to produce extra wrinkles, but even so I’ll add a touch more ease next time as I don’t think all the wrinkling is down to the extra layer. The good news is that the fabric is a reorderable one – John Kaldor Isabella wool/viscose jersey – so I can get the exact same fabric again for next time. I might also shorten it a little but I haven’t quite made my mind up about that yet. The fabric was a birthday present and it’s lovely! Warm, stretchy, great recovery. It’s also extra wide: 170cm, so I got this top out of only one metre.

Rick Owens style top side

This was such a quick project to sew.   Cutting out took about five minutes and sewing maybe an hour and a half, and that’s only because I was going very slowly and carefully because I didn’t want to risk making a mistake with the posh fabric. 

I sewed it with size 75 stretch needles. I guess you could construct something like this entirely on the overlocker, but I did the seams on the sewing machine first for accuracy. I find if I sew with a fairly long stitch length even a straight stitch has enough elasticity to use on a knit. 

Already planning another one of these in another colour…maybe in the gunmetal grey.

Rick Owens style top side hands in pockets

Stylearc Toni take two

Stylearc Toni 3/4 view

I don’t repeat patterns very often, but my first Stylearc Toni dress has been such a favourite that I made another. It isn’t a maternity style but it’s roomy enough to work over a bump without too much distortion. I’m trying to make regular patterns with plenty of room on them rather than maternity ones in the hope that they’ll still look OK after the baby arrives.

My original version was made up straight out of the packet but this time I made a few changes. The first dress is a bad length for me: it ends at the widest part of my leg which means I can’t take long strides because the dress is very narrow at the hem and it catches on my calves. That was my fault for not bothering to add any extra length to the pattern. I normally need to add 2-4 inches to dresses. This one’s supposed to end at the bottom of the calf so it probably needed four inches adding if not more. I was a bit short of fabric for the second version, so instead of lengthening it to the intended proportion I shortened it by four inches so it ends just below my knee. I’m really pleased with the way that’s come out. It’s comfortable to walk in and it’s more flattering than my previous version.

Stylearc Toni front view

The fabric is a lightweight viscose woven from Macculloch and Wallis. Right now it’s still available here. It drapes very nicely, which is good for the style, but I used very lightweight interfacing on the collar to go with the fabric and that was a mistake as it’s come out a bit too floppy. This is the same fabric I used the pink colourway of for my first Vogue 1482 dress. It is very comfortable to wear and although it’s lightweight it’s relatively easy to sew.

I lost the pocket piece from the original pattern and had to make a new one. Unfortunately I didn’t make it quite deep enough to be perfect. But any pockets are better than none. The position of the pocket is better on this version because I took out some of the length from the top half of the pattern, raising the pockets up a couple of inches.

Stylearc toni side view

Here’s the back view. Last time I said that the centre back seam could be eliminated, but I’m glad I kept it. I had trouble fitting the collar to the neckline on this version – I probably stretched the neckline out while handling – and having the seam allowed me to fix the mismatch by taking the dress in a little at the top of the centre back.

Stylearc toni back view

Clio made the great suggestion of adding a zip to the centre front seam for breast-feeding access. I increased the seam allowance on the centre front seam to half an inch (or 1.2cm; it was 1cm originally) and interfaced the seamlines to make inserting the zip easier. I also removed the seam allowance from what was originally the centre front seam of the neck facing pieces so I could use the all-machine method of applying facings to the top of the zip and neckline from Kathleen Fasanella’s centered zip tutorial.

Here’s a closeup of the zip, which also shows the collar worn down rather than up.

Stylearc Toni close up

An unexpected bonus: because the only black invisible zip I had on hand was a 24″ one I can put the dress on by stepping into it rather than pulling it over my head.

Since we took these pictures the weather in the UK has turned autumnal and I’ve been wearing this dress with leggings and my grey boiled wool kimono jacket. I’m hoping it will keep going all winter with enough layers. I can even see me making a third version of this one day; I’d like to try it in something really crisp like a cotton poplin to see what happens to those drapes.

Save

Mappamodello Arab-Islamic Work Dress

Arab-islamic work dress front

One of my Christmas presents was an unusual sewing pattern ‘book’ called Mappamodello. It contains patterns for very geometric styles developed by the designer Nanni Strada in the 70s. The dress above is her ‘Arab-Islamic Work Dress’. It’s the only one I’ve made up so far but I suspect there will be more in the future.

I’ve described the object as a book but once you unpack it what you actually have is two very large pieces of paper. One is the (huge) pattern sheet, and the other includes brief notes on the history of each of the styles and some photographs and technical drawings of the designs. The only thing resembling sewing instructions provided is the key on the pattern sheet. The pattern for the dress I’ve made up didn’t entirely match the photographs and diagrams, but I found the process of reconciling the differences enjoyable. Having said that I made a fairly major mistake with this one which I would have avoided if there had been a photograph or a diagram of the back view as well as the front. More on that in a moment.

The designs are all one size and entirely flat in the sense that there are no seams or darts. They work by wrapping around the body and fastening with ties. The size is adjusted by fastening the ties more or less tightly. Most of the styles are very fabric-efficient and they almost all include pockets. You can see some of the fitting ties on the Arab-Islamic work dress in the back view below. If you’re familiar with the Walkaway dress it’s a similar ‘apron’ style. I was a bit cynical about the ‘one size fits all’ claim and added a few inches of length to the pattern for insurance. It probably wasn’t needed but does give a nice deep hem.

This particular style is supposed to be wearable in two different ways, but this relies on making the back neckline identical to the front neckline so you can turn the dress around 90 degrees and stick your arms though the neckline slits, tying the top neckline slit ties over your shoulders. The original ‘sleeves’ undo at the underarm, and those pieces then wrap over your chest and back, and presumably tie at your sides. As you can see I didn’t make a slit on the back of the dress so I haven’t got anywhere to put one of my arms through when I turn the dress around. I don’t think I’ve lost too much as wearing it that way doesn’t look very comfortable in the model photo.

Arab-islamic work dress back

I think the style I have made up is one of the earliest in the series. There are several very similar dresses in the book and it’s interesting to compare the later ones with the earlier. The shape of the neckline and sleeves evolves, the ability to wear the dress in two ways is dropped, the pockets become more complicated, and some purely decorative features creep in. I suspect the later versions make slightly more practical garments! Mine shouldn’t be worn without leggings and a t-shirt underneath because of all the gaps.

The book doesn’t go into any detail about fabric choice. For one or two of the designs it mentions ‘glazed cotton’ or ‘lacquered cotton’ which sounds to me like crisp fabrics. Accordingly I made my dress up in a polycotton poplin on the grounds that it’s got a crisp hand and is cheap enough for an experiment, but I think something with a bit more drape would actually have been better. By the way you need wide fabric for this style – 150cm/60″ – which limits the choices. I couldn’t find wide poplin from any of my usual sources and ended up getting it from eBay. The dress is mostly one huge pattern piece nearly the whole width of the fabric and well over two metres long. It makes efficient use of fabric. I only had small scraps left over.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

So does this pass the wearability test? I’m not sure. These photos were taken on a bitterly cold and windy day so you are not seeing the dress or me at their best. It does feel a bit like wearing an academic gown only not as warm. Despite the book’s claim that the styles work for all seasons I think this one is only for spring and early summer days.

This all sounds rather negative but I really enjoyed the process of working out how to make the dress up. I’d like to give some of the more sophisticated versions a try, using better fabric. I think there’s a great dress in here somewhere.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

And in other news, I am in the current issue of Vogue Patterns magazine! Very flattered: thanks Vogue!